16 augustus 2007


Leibniz, God, en ik (en Anglais)



Aangezien ik mijn Leibniz-sectie aan het nalopen ben, en mijn oog er daardoor op viel, mede in verband met Jami, en Ellian, en (ex-)moslims, en religieuzen van alle soorten en maten, en gerelateerde kwesties ....

Whether a God is necessary to maintain human morality

"I admit that there is hardly any rule which would be unavoidably binding if there were not a God who leaves no crime unpunished, no good action unrewarded." (p. 96)

This argument is very weak, and it is desirable to have foundations for moral rules (i.e. how to treat others) which does not essentially depend on some dubious metaphysical assumption. It is very weak, because anybody who disagrees may disagree by simply saying "I believe my God instructed me differently".

Also, it seems false: what is needed is not a common God but a common human assumption:

  • that if we are both human, then your and my feelings are much alike across many like circumstances and conditions, and that I have needs, pleasures and pains much like you have, and a further assumption

  • that being both human, we can come to agree on modes of behaviour that are either mutually beneficent or, at least, less harmful to either then if each of us would do all he could to use, subject, deceive or hurt the other.

Again, the binding force of a moral rule is, since ages immemorial, a human sanction in this life, even if it is only imaginary, like the present fear of the fires of hell in the future. The idea that a superhuman God is needed to take care of human morals is simply false: human beings living in a society must do this themselves, and do do this themselves, or else there would be no society.

All appeal to speculative metaphysics here is only confusion of the issues. (One who was extra-ordinarily clear about this is Marsilius of Padua, who published his "Defensor Pacis" in 1324. As a lawyer, Leibniz should have known of him.)

Finally, what I dislike about the appeal to some God as a foundation for rules about how humans are to deal with each other, and what also does not seem to me to be factually correct about human beings, is that it makes moral rules dependent on there being some super-human punishing and rewarding force, the existence of which is speculative and doubtful at best.

It seems to me people follow moral rules either (i) out of habit or (ii) out of free will, because they are afraid that not doing so will have consequences they dislike more than the benefits they expect from doing so - whether these consequences are to themselves or to others.

And nothing more is needed for a human(e) society, as the above-mentioned Marsilius of Padua explained very clearly already in 1324, even if some believe they will be punished or rewarded after their death, for all humans can reason about consequences and have likes and dislikes that are distinct from whatever they believe about God, while also there must be some intersubjective agreement about human pains and human pleasures without first having to agree upon theological niceties no living person has ever conclusively settled.

Het blauw gezette citaat is van Leibniz, uit Book 1 Chapter 2:  Nouveaux Essayes. De rest is mijn commentaar, uit 1996.

Maarten Maartensz


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